Tide's Beard happy about return trip

Published: Friday, November 1, 2002 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Thursday, October 31, 2002 at 10:56 p.m.
TUSCALOOSA - Santonio Beard will tell you it doesn't matter who carries the ball for the University of Alabama football team.
The junior running back from Nashville is just as happy watching teammates Shaud Williams and Ray Hudson run as he is when he's got the ball in his own hands, he says.
That wasn't the case last season, when he traveled with the Crimson Tide to his hometown to play Vanderbilt and didn't play a snap.
"It mattered last year," he said. "I wanted to play, but the coaches thought I wasn't ready to play. It was kind of tough to deal with, not getting to play.
"Things work out in mysterious ways, because we're going back up there to play them again this year."
No. 12 Alabama returns to Vanderbilt on Saturday for a 1 p.m. game, playing in Nashville two years in a row due to a scheduling quirk in the SEC's league rotation. Beard couldn't be happier.
"It's going to be real special to be able to go home and play in my home state in my hometown on a field where I won two state championships and two MVPs," he said. "It will be sweet to be back there with all my family and friends, and, hopefully, we'll win."
Beard figures about 40 friends and family members, as well as several players who currently play for his high school, will show up to root him on at the field where he had his greatest high school triumphs.
Beard led Pearl-Cohn High School to state championships as a sophomore and a junior, winning both state title games at Vanderbilt Stadium. He ran for more than 100 yards in both games and scored two touchdowns in each title contest.
In high school, Beard ran for 5,630 career yards and 91 touchdowns. He has recently returned to that form for Alabama, and now leads the team in rushing with 500 yards and scoring with nine touchdowns.
A year ago, Beard didn't figure into the game plan at all when the Tide visited Vanderbilt. Things have changed drastically since that time.
"It's been so strange to be as low as the fourth guy on the depth chart, going to a guy who will possibly be starting," he said.
NYT Regional Newspapers Santonio Beard expects the Crimson Tide to get a warm welcome on the road Saturday. "It will be like a neutral site," he said.

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